BANNER ELK, N.C. --- The Lees-McRae College men's soccer team is primed for a late run in this week's Conference Carolinas Tournament, drawing the second seed and a rematch with seventh-seeded King College on Tuesday evening on Tate Field.
Lees-McRae (12-4-1, 9-2 CC) has not skipped a beat in Lee Squires' first year at the helm, finishing second in the conference standings and winning the Western Division title with a 9-2 record in league play. The Bobcats were the lone conference side to upend regular season champion Coker College this fall, defeating the then-No. 7 Cobras in extra time on Oct. 22.
Sophomore James Galvani (High Wycombe, England) put together a strong season in conference play this fall, leading the Bobcats with nine goals and three deciding strikes while going on a torrid five-match goal-scoring streak against Carson-Newman, Queens, Pfeiffer, Belmont Abbey, and Mount Olive.
The story of the season for the Bobcats, however, has been the play of their freshmen, as rookies James Smith (Eastbourne, England), Scott Alford (Hillsborough, N.C.), and Preston Shahdad (Charlotte, N.C.) have combined for eight goals, eight assists, and a trio of match-winners in conference play. Smith has shined in the midfield for the Bobcats, recording one goal and ending the regular season tied for second in the league with six assists in conference play.
Seniors Luke Duffy (Wakefield, England) and Luke Staats (Almere, Netherlands) have led the Bobcat backline to a solid season in conference play this fall, helping Lees-McRae keep four clean sheets against league opponents while combining for one goal and four assists in the attacking third. Sophomore goalkeeper Thomas Rusling (Sheffield, England) posted a 7-2 record in league play this season, keeping four clean sheets to go along with a 1.26 goals against average against conference opponents.
King (5-9-2, 5-5-1 CC) put together a solid first season in Conference Carolinas, posting victories over Lees-McRae, Mount Olive College, North Greenville University, Belmont Abbey College, and Barton College in league play. The Tornado were the conference's third-best offense in the regular season, averaging 2.3 goals per match as senior Tom Winspear paced King's attack with 13 goals, three assists, and three deciding strikes in league play.
Sophomores Joe Mayer and Sam Nicol each finished the regular season tied for second in the conference with six assists, as Mayer also scored a pair of goals in league play this fall. Fellow sophomore Zach Caracciolo closed out the regular season ranked second on the team behind Winspear with six goals against conference opponents to provide another facet in King's balanced attack.
Senior Patrick Milfeld and freshman Stefan Kwiatkowski split time between the pipes in the regular season, as Milfeld posted a 4-2-1 record in league play while recording a clean sheet against Queens.
Lees-McRae is looking to reverse the result from its early-season meeting against King, when the Tornado held on for a 4-3 win over the Bobcats to hand LMC one of its two conference loses of the fall. The Bobcats and Tornado will take the Tate Field pitch at 7 p.m. on Tuesday with a berth in the semifinal round of the conference tournament up for grabs.
- LMC -